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The Legend of World Cinema :Roman Polanski

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A craftsman turns to be an artist of unique talent when he develops a better understanding of what makes everything around him so different, and also what makes those the same; an understanding that avoids stereotypes and acknowledges both the unity and diversity in nature.

To conjure up an entire world and society into the limited spaces of day to day life and present it through the most manipulative medium ever known, Cinema needs a profound artistic talent. There are only a few contemporary film makers who could be listed in this category of gifted artists; Roman Polanski is one among them.

Polanski was a part Jew born in 1933 to 'Polish' parents. His parents were taken to the concentration camps of Nazi rule where his mother was murdered. Polanski survived these catastrophes by pretending to be a Roman Catholic but his life was severely mistreated. As the war progressed Poland became increasingly war torn and Polanski had to live his life as a tramp, hiding in barns and forests, eating whatever he could steal or find. During those times local people usually ignored cinemas where German films were shown, but Polanski seemed little concerned by the propaganda and often went to these movies. At the war's end in 1945, he was reunited with his father who sent him to technical school, but young Polanski seemed to have already chosen another career; and there began an exceptional journey of the academy award winning film maker Polanski.

In the 1950s, he took up acting, appearing in 'Andrzej Wajda's A Generation' (1955) before studying at the Lodz Film School. His early shorts such as 'Two Men and a Wardrobe' (1958), 'The Fat and the Lean' (1961), and 'Mammals' (1962) showed his taste for black humor and interest in bizarre human relationships. His feature debut as director, 'Knife in the Water' (1962), was the first Polish post-war film not associated with the war theme.If observed closely one may find hues of Polanski's childhood disasters and personal experiences in his movies to a grave extend. The director and his films share an undeniable correlation on and off screen.

Violence, travel and voyeurism are some of the recurring theme in his films. The reason for this seems to root back to the holocaust background of Polanski's childhood.

Roman Polanski is an artist who composes himself in between reality and imagination to imprint his own identity and existence in reel. His recurring themes of violence and victimization, isolation and alienation, and a profound sense of the absurd, infused a body of work that remains unmatched by many a director before and since. Ambiguity and paradoxes makes Polanski's films more suggestive and seductive. His films always invite competing readings rather than providing the viewer with direct answers. Accepting the traditional techniques and at the same time embracing the unknown is the film making style of Polanski.

Polanski is a master orchestrator of limited spaces and it is evident from his very first feature film 'Knife in the Water' itself. It seems that Polanski's style of composing limited spaces works out in two different dimensions. Composing the obvious physical space in the mise en scene is one style which he effectively made use in some of his films like 'Knife in the water', 'Tess' and 'Carnage'.The second style is that he works out his story and script in such a way that each and every characters of the story is confined to their own emotional and intellectual world, to their own limited spaces of self contemplation and isolation. Polanski developed the 'craftsman' in him to an 'artist' by combining and mastering these two styles.

'Knife in the Water' features three characters in a story of rivalry and sexual tension. It deals with the intense circumstances of human life. The thriller involves a married couple who take a young drifter with them on their yacht for a brief retreat. Secluded on a boat in Poland's Masurian Lake District, with conditions ranging from aggressive storms to dead calm, there is nowhere to escape, and changes in weather signal changes in mood. The characters are entirely isolated; not even random extras appear in the background. His personality inhabits every aspect, from investigations of claustrophobia and divergent personalities, to clever framing on a cramped boat set. And through his artistry and skill,Polanski overcomes an impossible shooting location and the outward minimalism of the story to construct a tale defined by the profound relationship between its suffocating backdrop and psychological potency. Three individuals surrounded by the water of ambiguity and sexual tensions...to treat this discrete predicament theme in a justifiable way is certainly an impressive job.Polanski plays with human relations where the mood shifts from playful to severe with merely a glance or carefully chosen line of dialogue. 

When dealing with spaces Polanski is simply an adorable genius who seems to have come to earth with a magic wand in hand to challenge impossibilities. The director established this style with his first film and then continued it throughout his entire career. He makes stories all the more thrilling by limiting the number of characters and enclosing them in a confined space. This is evident in his pictures ranging from his first film 'Knife in the Water' to his most recent, 'Carnage'. Even his films that do not seem to fit this scheme of limitations have similar components. In the film 'Frantic', Polanski detained the hero Harrison Ford's American tourist character in Paris, isolating him by his displacement in a foreign country. In 'The Ghost Writer' also the central character - the ghost writer - is isolated and limited in and around uncertainty and confusions. Polanski's most beautiful composition 'Tess' is also not an exception for this. The whole story is structured and set in the backdrop of a small village in England and to a very limited number of characters.

A perfect fitting example for Polanski's peculiar skill of composing emotional space is 'The Pianist': definitely his master piece. The catastrophic political and social impact of Nazi invasion in Poland and its brutal and reckless influence and insomnia in the life of Jews in Poland, crime, violence, and hopelessness- everything is tactfully identified, confined and portrayed through the life of an ordinary pianist. That is the whole essence of the characteristics of a particular society in a particular time period in history is cramped in between the magnificent fingers of a pianist. This magical touch of Polanski is explicitly experimented in the treatment of his last film 'Carnage' also. It tells the story of a cordial meeting in which two pairs of parents hold in an apartment after their sons is involved in a fight, though as their time together progresses; increasingly childish behavior throws the day into chaos. The entire affair of the day is taking place inside the four walls of the apartment and throughout the movie the spectator is seeing only four faces. Yet the film could defeat the impatience of every common viewer through its mesmerizing appeal.

Polanski reconstructed the diverse demeanor of a society by composing the whole dimensions of human reactions and emotions in a confined space of a middle class apartment. 'Chinatown', 'Rosemary's baby', 'Macbeth', 'What?', 'The ninth gate' all these films of Polanski are not exceptions to this peculiar style of Polanski's film making.

As a film maker Roman Polanski's magnitude and range is very soaring. The surrealistic style in visual treatment, the impressionist style of reflecting the possibilities of a subject in his impression, the deliberate attempt to bring out the innate characteristics of human life and emotions: all these are unique qualities of Polanski's film making style.

Roman Polanski is a phenomenal persona. The silence, the violence, the tolerance, the loneliness, the melancholy, the ambiguity, everything in and around life he confined to a minimal structure - of an emotional atom bomb- to get the most severe blast in human minds. There are things known and unknown, the in between door is the perception. Polanski positions himself in this door and there he turns to be a phenomenal persona with a perception that goes beyond the limits of limited spaces.